Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Plan to Combat Haze in Minnesota Upheld

ST LOUIS (CN) - Conservationists worried about federal efforts to reduce haze in Minnesota failed to secure the Eighth Circuit's intervention.

In Minnesota, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park are both considered "class I federal areas," subject to national goals for natural visibility.

Five electric-generating units pollute these Class I areas, however, and they also affect the visibility in Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

Historically the Environmental Protection Agency required polluters to install and operate what is known as the best-available retrofit technology, or BART, to reduce visibility impairment in federal areas.

This changed in 2012 when the EPA traded BART for what is known as the transport rule, letting states use emissions-trading programs instead of source-specific BART.

The National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club and four other groups petitioned the Eighth Circuit for relief when the EPA did just that in Minnesota, approving its Regional Haze State Implementation Plan in June 2012.

They told the court that source-specific BART may achieve better results in Minnesota, but the federal appeals court saw no indication that the EPA acted arbitrarily.

Noting that the EPA's "emission projections indicate that the Transport Rule is better than BART," the Eighth Circuit found that "the Transport Rule seeks to achieve greater, overall reasonable progress towards improving visibility than source-specific BART."

Minnesota's reasonable-progress goal aims to "attain natural visibility conditions in Boundary Waters in 2093 and in Voyageurs in 2177," according to the 13-page opinion.

Judge Duane Benton wrote the ruling, which Chief Judge William Jay Riley and Judge Kermit Bye joined.

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